Surprise! Everyone has belly fat -- even people with washboard abs. However, while it’s completely normal to have belly fat, too much fat around your midsection can affect your health in ways that other types of fat don’t. Some of our fat lies right underneath our skin, and other fat is deeper inside, nestled around our liver, lungs, heart, and other organs. It’s this deeper fat, known as “visceral” fat, that can be a huge problem -- even for thin people. So, what exactly is visceral fat and what can we do to keep our bodies as healthy as possible?
What is Visceral Fat?
Unlike fat parked on your thighs and hips, fat around your middle produces hormones that can create significant health risks. Visceral fat is important because it cushions the organs, but if you have too much of it, you might be more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers, including colon and breast cancer. Why? If you gain too much weight, the areas in which your body regularly stores fat become full -- so full that the fat is deposited around the heart and into the organs.
Even the skinniest of the skinny can still have too much visceral fat, and how much you have depends on both your genes and your lifestyle, particularly how active you are as well as your diet and sleeping habits. Generally speaking, a man whose waist measures 40 inches or more is likely to have too much visceral fat. The same is true of a woman whose waist measures 35 inches or more. So, if you want to lose belly fat, keep reading for five gut-busting tips that will help you slim down and tone up!
Five Ways to Lose Belly Fat
The dangers of storing too much visceral fat can be immediate and extreme, so it’s important to make lifestyle and diet changes as soon as possible. While there’s no magic bullet that can immediately shrink your midsection, there are several methods of burning belly fat that are trusted, tried, and true. While the following five tips are not necessarily quick or easy, they will help you to lose belly fat -- healthily and sustainably. Most importantly, the following tips work because they force you to develop habits that involve permanent lifestyle changes, ensuring you’ll stay trim for good. Ultimately, the best way to lose belly fat is the way that works around your lifestyle.
- Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
Arguably the most important thing you can do to trim all of your fat, including visceral fat, is to engage in vigorous exercise. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days per week. If you are already working out but still not seeing a change, mix up your routine! Try to include both strength training, which improves muscle size, and cardiovascular exercise, which raises your heart rate, into your routine. Examples of cardio exercise include circuit training, aerobics, swimming, cycling, and running, while strength training could include pushups, weights, and squats. Play soccer with your kids, go to Zumba, tend to your garden, rake leaves -- your exercise doesn’t have to be in a gym! However, if you are not engaging in any form of exercise right now at any level, it might be a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider before beginning any new fitness program.
- Get Enough Sleep
Believe it or not, sleep is important for many aspects of your health, including your weight. In fact, studies show that people who don’t get the recommended amount of shut-eye tend to gain more weight, including weight around the midsection. According to a 2019 observational study on sleep assessment in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) suggests a correlation between increased weight and sleeping less. Sleep apnea, a condition where breathing stops sporadically and intermittently throughout the night, may also be linked to excess abdominal fat. While sleep is not the single solitary reason why you are struggling to shed weight around your stomach, it might be part of the bigger picture.
- Clean Up Your Diet
Unfortunately, there’s no magic diet to eliminate belly fat. However, a healthy diet that is low in fatty, sugar-laden foods can help you to lose weight and shift excess visceral fat. Try to make sure your diet includes fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans, and sweet potatoes. The nutrients and minerals in these foods can make a serious difference in your midsection. Other foods to incorporate include nuts, which are scientifically associated with a lower risk of obesity and reduced long-term weight gain, and fish, which is chock-full of essential nutrients and vitamins that help to curb your cravings for carb-loaded snacks. Even if you don’t change your diet in any way other than switching to a higher-fiber, whole-grain bread, you might be able to better maintain your weight. If you’ve already cut out processed foods and refined sugars, take it one step further and eliminate gluten, dairy, red meats, or even gassy vegetables like cabbage or broccoli to see if that makes a difference in the puffiness around your waistline.
- Reduce Your Stress
Everyone has stress, but it’s how you handle it that matters most. Your stress levels can also play a role in how your body stores excess visceral fat. This is because when we are stressed, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol, which increases how much visceral fat our bodies store. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, relaxing with family and friends, exercising to blow off steam, seeking counseling, and other stress management tactics such as lightening your load and learning how to say no when you’re feeling overwhelmed can help you lose visceral fat more effectively. If you only have the time for one stress management technique, exercise is the one with the most immediate benefits as it targets both stress and obesity at the same time.
- Wear Compression Clothes
Form-fitting compression athletic gear, like is found in various SportPort activewear garments can help improve your circulation, support your muscles, engage your core, and correct your posture. Maintaining a good posture automatically creates a leaner appearance while strengthening your back and abdominal muscles and, ultimately, streamlining your waistline.
Compression clothes also put pressure on certain parts of your body, and some can accelerate weight loss through increased sweating. Keep in mind that compression gear won’t magically boost your metabolism and it won’t burn more calories -- no workout gear can do that (we wish!). But if wearing compression gear can support your body and make you feel more comfortable when you move, then it might help you to exercise more often or to make your workouts longer and more effective.
The struggle to lose belly fat is real, and there’s no hard-and-fast rule for slim-down success. If you eat a healthy diet and engage in regular exercise but you can’t seem to shrink your midsection, visceral fat might be to blame. Not only is visceral fat unattractive to some, but it also increases your risk of some cancers and chronic diseases. Try these five tips to lose belly fat and boost your overall health.